As part of the Spending Review, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a scheme costing £2.9 billion which aims to help unemployed people find work.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced key initiatives in the Spending Review yesterday including the ‘Restart Scheme’. This has been designed to help one million people in the UK find work after the impact of COVID-19. This will occur through additional training courses as well as local partnerships.

This scheme will target those who have been out of work for over a year and will give people regular, intensive support that is tailored to their circumstances. The Restart Scheme will mainly be focussed on workers who are older and will start with £400 million of funding next year.

Furthermore, the Treasury have also outlined that a further £1.4 billion of funding will be given to Job Centre Plus in order to increase its capacity to give assistance to unemployed people searching for work.

Mr. Sunak has also announced a top-up of £1.6 billion to the Kickstart scheme which was previously  given £2 billion in funding. This is predicted to provide up to a quarter of a million jobs for young people that are government-subsidised.

Another significant change is to the apprenticeship levy. Mr. Sunak announced that the Government intended to “improve the way the system works”. After August 2021, employers will be able to transfer unspent levy funds “in bulk” to small and medium enterprises.

The Government have also announced an extension to the incentive scheme designed to boost the number of apprentices hired, which will now end at the end of March in 2021.

Also announced was the Government’s pledge to spend £375 million between 2021-22 on in demand courses for adults without an A-Level, building on the Summer Plan for Jobs and to support the future rollout of a Flexible Loan Entitlement which will allow a collaboration between employers and skills providers.

Neil Carberry, Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), said:

We’re already working with government to support businesses and workers in navigating the recovery, including through the Kickstart scheme which the REC is facilitating to get more workers into the employment industry. A close partnership with government to ensure jobseekers can access the expertise of professional recruiters through Job Centres will allow the Restart scheme to make a big difference.

The Chancellor is right that the apprenticeship levy needs to  work better for businesses, so making it more flexible is a step we have long campaigned for. But we have had promises before. Now it is time for action. The levy must be broadened so temporary workers can access high-quality, shorter training courses – the kind that are needed now to help people transition into growing industries and support the government’s ambitions for regional infrastructure. Local recruiters who know the labour market will be essential to these plans.

Tania Bowers, Legal Counsel and Head of Public Policy at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), said:

 We welcome the announcement from Rishi Sunak that £2.9 billion will be provided to the Work & Pensions Secretary to support a three-year restart programme to help those unemployed for over a year find new jobs. However, while we recognise that every job cannot be saved, we continue to urge the Government to reconsider how retraining support is delivered.

We are encouraged by the Chancellor’s announcement that the Government plans to improve the way the apprenticeship system works for businesses, though we do urge that these plans are extended to contingent workers, including contract professionals. We believe that greater structure change is needed, including reducing the length of apprenticeships, allowing the use of the levy for more flexible training, allowing for portable apprenticeships, access for agency workers and a more flexible use of lifelong learning schemes to deliver more immediate positive impacts for both the economy and individuals.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE, CEO at City & Guilds Group, commented:

Re-focusing existing funding is sensible right now, but the Restart programme feels backward-looking in scope and lacks any detail about how we’re going to support people to retrain and reskill now. It would serve no one, least of all those trying to get back to work, to see a rehash of the unsuccessful Work Programme. In order to get to grips with this unprecedented crisis, what we need are more creative and practical strategies designed to tackle today’s issues, to get away from a top down, one-size-fits all approach and listen to the ideas and needs of local regions, and we need immediate action. If it’s going to be crunch time for unemployment in six months, can we afford to let people wait 12 months before giving them the support they need?

The most practical step that we can take is to match skills to jobs, and supply to demand. In our ‘Act Now’ report published last month, we called on the Government to prioritise working with local authorities and businesses to create a national network of ‘Employment and Training Hubs’ within the regions most impacted by unemployment.

These will act as a ‘one-stop-skills-and-jobs-shop’ to support reskilling back into meaningful employment in areas where its most needed. Providing people with the right support and framework to gain the necessary skills, advice and access to get back into work is critical for individuals and businesses, and will also save the public purse billions in benefits payments if people remain in work. There is no more time for discussion; we need to act now.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.